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ABROAD OUTLOOK: Was Hurting Clinton Worth Hurting the American Worker? by Rebecca Louise

In late July, I was in Arles, France, watching the BBC News on a tiny television in the charming old section of the beautiful city where the painter Vincent VanGough was hounded out of town for public drunkenness. My 18 year old niece, who was traveling with me, and who has not lived overseas as much as I have, was watching also. She was thrilled with the BBC. She hadn’t realized that news could have such depth, objectivity and such a strong international outlook. We were recovering from a day of wine tasting and sightseeing visiting when we heard the BBC announcer tell the news that the “Fast Track” negotiating authority legislation had finally passed both houses (with a few needed changes forced through by the Democratically-controlled Senate) and was on its way to President Bush’s desk for a signature. Also mentioned was the fact that the legislation had languished for many years in the GOP controlled Congress during the Clinton years.
A clip of GW Bush came on next and he looked gleeful as he announced that this legislation would guarantee more jobs and would help Americans in this time of economic turmoil and need. I assume he was carefully following Karl Rove’s script for re-election and for avoiding the one-term legacy of his father. In my mind I hissed, "then why didn’t you tell your Republican friends to support “Fast Track” authority for Bill Clinton during the last several years as it languished in Congress? You all didn’t care about US jobs then? Your fellow Republicans hated President Clinton more than they cared about US jobs then?"
I know…I know…many Democrats voted against “Fast Track Authority,” but they voted for policy or for ideological reasons. Many progressive Members of Congress have problems with globalism. They voted their consciences, both last time and this one.
The Republicans, however, voted AGAINST their own ideals, policies and consciences. They simply wanted to cripple Clinton's ability to govern the country.
Republicans never thought Clinton was entitled to be President and they were apparently willing to cost the many American the jobs they now tout “Fast Track” will bring -- just out of spite.
This spitefulness that has seeped into public policy the last 10 years with the Rush Limbaughs and Newt Gingriches isn’t new. One only has to read “The Enemies of FDR” and even (sorry folks) William Safire’s “Scandalmongers” to know that politics has always been a poisonous business, but this cynical use of holding up what Republicans sincerely believed was a surefire way of employing more Americans just to humiliate and embarrass Bill Clinton shows the ultimate contempt many on the Right feel for the American worker.
And this also shows why many Progressives like me don’t trust them anymore…why many of us became re-radicalized in recent years even though Progressives generally try to reach consensus and “play fair.” We are angry and we are sick of the nastiness of the Coulters and Drudges and of the fake "Down Home" folkiness of GW Bush while they snicker, hiss and imply that Progressives and Liberals are to blame for all problems, are unpatriotic and even deserve to be killed.
I have several moderate Republican friends and loved ones and I keep asking them, “Why do you put up with this? Why don’t you speak out?” They tell me that they are tired. They feel a bit foolish now about the “War on Clinton” ­ although they still don’t like him ­ but they feel unable to stop this nasty “Far Right” juggernaut that has taken over the Republican Party. In some respects, I don’t blame them. Just look at the way the Right Wingers are now trying to destroy the “thoughtful” side of the GOP over Iraq these days.
And what of the general American public? Why aren’t they fighting against all this foolishness? All I can hope is that many Americans are so frightened since September 11th, that they are willing to do anything for a sense of unity.
So, I say to Republicans, stop exploiting this desire for unity for your own ends. Stop seeing this cry for security as a way to exploit the situation and to throw red meat to your “true believers.” It might also be good to stop the “politics of personal destruction” against your own moderates too. Once the boundaries of civility have been breached democracy itself can become fragile, indeed. And that is a risk that we can't take right now.